This is the second time that Bethlehem plague these pages. Back in '94, when their first interview on Dark Oath was released, the release of their debut CD, "Dark Metal", was imminent. Nowadays, it's been about a year since the release of their second full-length album, "Dictius Te Necare", which comes to strengthen their reputation as one of Germany's most interesting and original bands in the Metal scene. Bass-player and lyricist Barstch was again interrogated to tell us about the band's latest offer...
(A small excerpt from the interview featured in full on Dark Oath #6)
There were some problems with the pressing of "Dictius..." on the U.S., as apparently the pressing plants refused to print the booklet! Did this have anything to do with the lyrics or was it because of that photo of you shooting something up your veins and Landfermann's photo by a bloody corpse on the promo-flyers which have been altered for the booklet?
Ja, exactly because of that. It wasn't allowed to print the original photographs and therefore, it came to censorship.
You've also had some trouble with German police and censorship some time ago. What's that about and are things solved already?
It all started with the release of our first demo in Sept. 1992 when Matton gave one of the 250 copies to a fan of our band who was 14 vears old. So after a while his parents (mainly his mother) started calling me at home to tell me that their son had changed/alterered. They told me that because of the demo he had built a kind of 'Satanic altar' in his room, that he got aggressive/vicious and stuff. 'Their son had become a different person and this should be our fault'... Ja, they (in cooperation with other parents of other damn kids) 'promised' to 'fight' against our band and the aim should be to ban our music and stuff. Hell, they called us every day and every night and first we tried to explain that Bethlehem wasn't a 'Satanic', or whatever, band but damn, they kept on with these really stupid things. Therefore, we asked our lawyer how to react to such things and he advised us to threaten them with a charge for difamation. That's what we did and after really stupid months of stupid telephone calls it all stopped immediately. But it went on when we released the first full album known as "Dark Metal". Folks wanted us to play different gigs in different German cities but censorship come and banned us when the 'authorities' (mainly the police) found out that our band was gonna be doing these gigs, e.g. in the city where our drummer lives all Bethlehem CDs were confiscated and Steinhoff and myself were brought in by organisators of two gigs to answer several 'questions'. This was kind of an 'inquisition' which took one and a half hour and after this they threatened to give CDs, band information and so on to the local public prosecutor's office. All further gigs in our area and also in different German cities were forbidden and so on and so on, blablabla. Adipocere reacted and censored the lyrics to '3rd Nocturnal Prayer' by not printing them in the booklet because of some words such as 'Satan', 'Lucifer' and stuff. It went on like this, e.g. the German police asked me lotsa questions about this and that, gig arrangers didn't allow us to play here and there and last but hopefully least the police came to my house and confiscated different rough designs for the second full CD for Red Stream. I was charged of spreading 'violent messages' on CDs, videos and letters and my lawyers are still working against that charge. Patrick of Red Stream told me that in the USA there would be no chance to print the photographs we wanted for the booklet and stuff but this is typical. Since our start as a band we have had lotsa stupid troubles (and still do) because of our music and art, e.g. during these stupid questionings by the police they told me that lotsa parents of fans charged us for being a sort of 'Satanic sect' and other useless bullshit. We're not sure why the adults hate us like this and for nearly five years they have been trying to stop us. We never understood why we should be so 'dangerous' for the 'pubhc', we really don't! But hell, we will go on with our work and there will definitely be a 3rd, 4th and 5th CD! There will be further gigs too for no one really can stop us with our personal view of art and music!! There are a lot more stories of ignorant and foolish bullshit but I can't tell 'em all and really don't wanna bore the readers with so much crap and inability!
'This album is dedicated to all suicide victims'. In what way do you relate to suicide and especially, what's the concept behind "Dictius Te Necare" that ties the album to suicide victims?!
- You can't kill yourselves because most of you are still dead-. "Dictius Te Necare" is more like a mirror which reflects things still to happen until things from my youth. Suicide, or basically speaking, death, is my brother and sister, my father and mother, my daughter and son and I really don't know why. Since ages I always dreamt of death... Sometimes it's me dying, sometimes folks I know, sometimes folks I never met and quite often all these things which really happened in the past. Eight or so years ago I came home and found my girlfriend strangled with a clothesline. She hanged herself and it was to be seen that her neck didn't broke... Her tongue hung blue out of her face. She was dead and the only thing I could do was to cut the clothesline with a knife and to wait for the cops. In her last letter she wrote me that an angel would come to redeem her from pain but no angel came and she wasn't redeemed, just dead. Another night, another time, a quite good friend of mine got lotsa heroin although he was never into H at all. We had a good time by sniffin' & smokin' some of it and after a while I fell asleep. When I awoke, the room was full of cops and my friend was dead for he got an overdose by using a needle. His face looked horrible, it was the face of somebody who was really afraid of his forthcoming death and I often meet this face in my dreams. I was arrested but that's another story which has nothin' to do with your question. In a pub another dude fell in my arms and died on hydrocyanic acid just a few minutes after we had a beer on the loo. It's quite ugly to see one dyin' quite directly with red/white spume in his face. Lotsa other brothers & sisters followed and I decided to leave that suicide scene for I still wanted to survive. I moved from the city and got back to Grevenbroich to start a new life with new alternatives, right? Shortly after, my aunt committed suicide by hanging herself and I still thought to myself that everything would happen again and I got several nervous breakdowns. The dreams got harder and I damn felt like buried alive with death. The only way to get out of it was to found a band just to channel all these bad feelings in a thing called music, a sort of valve for all my bad dreams of death & suicide. In 1990 I met Matton whose father had committed suicide too when he was a young boy and whose mother died of cancer shortly after. I got in Matton's band called Dark Tempest and 'til early 1991 we played a mixture of Black, Thrash and old Heavy Metal. In 1991 we thought that it would be better to create a band, or better said, to create a musical style which would deal more with suicide & death, more with darkness, for darkness meant death to us and definitely not occultism or stuff. We met Steinhoff and our former vocalist Classen and started with Bethlehem in Sept. 1991. The first songs were absolutely negative & dark and therefore, we decided to call that style Dark Metal because this description totally fit the music we played. The first album called "Dark Metal" was released in Aug. 1994 and in a way it represented all these things Matton and myself buried deep inside of us. But it wasn't exactly what we wanted and we decided to write a deeper one with deeper poems... A kind of liquidation with our youth which was so marked by death. Therefore, I wrote these poems for "Dictius Te Necare" and created that title for it but this should be nothing but a private liquidation, ok? Bethlehem was always more of a 'private thing' and not so much interested in telling gossip around. Okay, but it happened and honestly, we 'played' along with the audience/crowd. We realised that lotsa them wanted to be cheated by this and that and therefore, we gave 'em what they wanted. But this wasn't quite satisfactory and after a while we really got bored by this and retired into obscurity just to finish our work for the new album, but also because the whole thing got more and more popular in Europe and elsewhere and more people wanted to dig our private things. Honestly, we hate that biz-gossip and otherwise we know that it's important to sell damn records. Now that we wrote that very private album we came to the conclusion not to do things that way but it's definitely too late. The album is released and we have to step forward.
Some say that suicide is a cowardly way of avoiding your problems although it also that takes guts to do it, what do you think about it?
About suicide as a way to avoid problems: I don't think so because it's never done just because of having fun by killin' oneself, right? Maybe some folks have fun by committin' suicide but all the folks we personally knew didn't. Some of 'em had been victims of themselves... Others had been victims of their parents, of drug-dealers as they fell in disgrace because of owing them a lot of money, of people who threatened their life, of this and that. For a better understanding, I wanna give you an example. The guy who killed himself with heroin made some extra money by selling different drugs. Unfortunately, he wasn't the right person for such a job because he was too good-natured and gave away stuff to some friends & dudes for free. I always told him not to do it for I knew these dealers and their 'reaction' when they're not getting paid. After a while he got so many debts that it was impossible to pay 'em all back. Because of bein' too good-natured and because of being the absolutely wrong person for such a job, he fell into total depression more and more and started hiding here and there. He was never into H and therefore, in a way it was our fault when he came with all that stuff to have a good time but on the other hand, I think he wanted to die among friends and definitely not alone. He was a victim of these people who basically, don't really give a fuckin' damn about folks and their problems. Okay, this surely is an extreme example but it's just meant to give you a description of what we mean by 'suicide victims'. There are lotsa examples of folks who couldn't take the pressure which was exercised by the so-called society in general. Some do, others don't & those folks I personally call victims and then it's no longer a conscious decision, they're just pulling the trigger of society's gun.
Landfermann told me something about you doing a song for a movie soundtrack. What's that about and how did it came up?
Spider, a girlfriend from New York City (Brooklyn) came along with that idea because she's into these movie-things. Of course we agreed and it worked out brilliant. 'Schuld uns'res knöch'rigen Faltpferd's' was exclusively produced for New Line Productions, Inc. as well as London Records/Phonogram and it will be used in the motion picture titled 'Gummo'. America's new underground shooting star Chloe Seviguy, known from the pictures 'Kids' and 'Trees Longe' takes the part of a New York chick, who shall bring a bunch of cat-killing Metal-freaks to sense. The movie script was written by Harmony Korine ('Kids') again. Picture and video will be seen worldwide. The reaction on 'Schuld uns'res knöch'rigen Faltpferd's', in behalf of Harmony Corine (Film Director) & Randy Poster (Music Supervisor), succeeded extremely well and therefore, New Line Productions, Inc. also bought 'Verschleierte Irreligiosität' from "Dictius Te Necare". Both songs will be used for the motion picture and will be released on the soundtack (CD/LP/MC) by London Records/Phonogram.
Bethlehem "Dictius Te Necare"
CD 1996, Red Stream 7 songs, 44'
God damn fuck! Bethlehem always knew how to make an entrance and they never needed any intros for that! Landfermann's vocals (?!) are sure to make many of you shit your pants when you press the 'Play' button!! My face twisted and my body quivered the very first time I did! I feared for my mental sanity and strongly considered having been possessed. I actually wrote these first few lines back then... The vocals on "Dictius Te Necare" are just as striking as Atilla's on Mayhem's "De Mysteriis...", but they sound more like the ones of Master's Hammer, if their singer was fit to be committed to a mental home as the most raving of lunatics. For that is what Pavor's bassist's screaming sounds like on this recording. The way he spews forth the lyrics, this time entirely in German, adds a completely demented edge to the music, which will surprise you for several of the first few listens. Intensity was never missed in Bethlehem's music, but this time the German's own brand of Dark Metal, where the ghost of Celtic Frost sheds a haunting shadow (a presence felt, but never exceedingly seen, I mean, heard), is even more chilling and intense! The catchiest and most perverse sort of moderate riffs are combined with the gloomiest, most darkly bewitching, and, I dare say, tragically 'romantic', slow paced moments to create superb and majestic anthems of darkness, brutality and hate. Keyboards are again given a merely simple and discreet use on a few chosen passages to add an extra depth to the whole atmosphere, although you won't be missing any of that atmosphere when they're not there. Check the interview for more details and be sure to grab a hold of this! "Dictius Te Necare" is in my opinion one of last year's most brilliant and intense releases! Hail the Gods of Dark Metal!! Fine production and packaging.